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3-yo struggling with first separate swimming lessons- need advice

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  • 3-yo struggling with first separate swimming lessons- need advice

    My precious three year old son was excited to enroll in his first "big-kid" swimming lessons where he would be in the water without me. Last summer, we took two "mommy and me" swimming classes and he loved them. This week, however, he started off very strongly in his first class, then had a total meltdown when he got too far away from me. (I am sitting on the side of the pool for this class.) He is in a class of five children who are three or four years old. One of the kids was dropped off by his father and sat on the side of the pool for the entire class without participating at all. Three of the kids were little water-loving fish, and my son flipped out.

    Following the melt-down, I got in the water with him. It was important to me that he get back into the pool and continue participating. I had cleared this with the instructors pre-class because I had an idea this might happen, but they only gave me a pass to do this for the first class, and I am not allowed back in the water for any other classes, though I am allowed to sit on the side of the pool.

    So, what's the solution? I feel like swimming lessons are not just activity -they are important life skills. He has to know how to save himself if he falls into the water; plus, I don't want him to think that he can quit. However, I don't want to traumatize him. He has agreed to go back to class today as long as I am with him, but I have told him that I will be sitting on the side of the pool and not in the water. We agreed that he could come over and touch me anytime he needed more "braveness" (his word).


  • #2
    I am only saying what I would do with my children. Every family is different.

    Unless my children were completely ready to be away from me I would not leave them in the water alone. It could break that trust that they have with me that I will not put them in a situation that they are uncomfortable.

    Ronnie and I are doing a family swim together. He will be four in two weeks. He isn't ready to be alone and that is fine with me. I know he will do it when he is ready, just like his sisters. I had one ready at 3 and one at 8, who knows when he will be and I don't mind.

    It isn't worth making him unhappy or having a fear of water or being upset with me for not hearing and appreciating what his needs are.

    I lived near the beach for 15 years with my girls and nothing ever happened. I was always by their side, even more so with the oldest who was nervous with the water.

    Ronnie can not swim, but loves the water. He will run head long into the ocean and I am there, by his side. If there was going to be a situation where I wouldn't be near him, he would have to wear his life jacket. He knows that but we haven't worn it yet. We tend to stay close together.

    If you have multiple children going in different directions if you are going to be near large bodies of water where this may be a problem then consider the life jackets.

    A child of three is very small and although some parents have their children swimming as infant every child is different.

    Disclaimer on infant swimming: keep in mind it has been shown to be a health risk with their ears and lungs.

    It isn't that urgent that they learn to swim at such an early age. A really good and honest instructor would tell you that really it is really just play until the age five or six. They do not have the capabilities to save themselves with what little they learn before then.

    Everyone has to take their own pace. The same with swimming, my youngest girl learned to drive as soon as she was legally allowed, and I have a feeling way before then, but so did I. My other daughter didn't until her early 20's. She wasn't ready. There was nothing wrong with her, she just wasn't at that place in her life yet.

    I didn't learn to swim until I was 27. Severe fear of the water from being forced.

    On the quitting, it isn't really quitting, it is waiting until he is ready, but again he is three, not an age where quitting has any meaning to him. Right now it is about comfort.

    Peace & Blessings,



    • #3
      thanks for the advice!

      Good news - we went back the next day and he felt "a wittle bit bwaver" (his words) and was able to get into the water without any trauma. I stayed right at the edge of the pool and told him he could touch my hand whenever he needed more "braveness". At the beginning of the class he was holding my hand so tightly he was cutting of the circulation. By the end of the class he kept encouraging me to move away from the edge so I wouldn't get wet!

      We go back today and he said that he "might feel like having a little fun in the water". A solution that everyone is happy with!


      • #4
        That is great. What a creative solution!
        I had actually written a big reply to you but some computer mishap erased it before I was able to post it. I did teach swimming for years, many 3's classes like you describe the one your son is in and I know that a listening, flexible parent goes a long way to a child learning and loving the water.


        • #5
          I am so happy to hear they let you stay near the pool. It was an excellent compromise.